Originally posted by David IbisonBobby Fischer, the eccentric genius and high school dropout who became the only US world chess champion, has died in self imposed isolation, aged 64.
The reclusive Fischer, christened the "Mozart of chess", stayed an enigma to the end. Friends and officials would offer no details of the unspecified illness that caused his demise.
The man once lionised in the US for defeating the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in a match in Iceland seen as a proxy for the cold war, ended his days estranged from his homeland, rejoicing in the carnage of September 11 and reviled for his anti-Semitic diatribes.
Among chess experts, Mr Fischer was regarded as the world's best-ever player, revered for his daring play and prodigious tactical talent.
I can still remember watching the daily coverage of the World Championship Match between Fisher and Spassky during the Summer of '72 on WNET Channel 13 in New York, hosted by Shelby Lyman. Like millions of other Americans, young and old, that match led to me taking up the game, a pursuit that has blessed me with untold hours of pleasure (and, yes, more than occasional frustration).
I don't think it's possible to appreciate the profound effect Fisher had on not just the game, but the game as a profession. For example, at that time the World Chess Championship was held once every three years. The prize fund for the 1972 World Title Match was US $250,000.00; for the next match in 1975 (which would have been Fisher's first title defense) the Philippine government was willing to put up a prize fund of US $5,000,000.00. Fisher, however, refused to participate in the match, making it for many years the largest purse in sports ever turned down, and allowing the Philippine government to use that money on another contest in the Fall of '75 between two great competitors in a somewhat different sport.
As mentioned above, Fisher never defended his title. For all intents and purposes he quit competitive chess after becoming World Champion. Having reached the ultimate goal that he had worked for his whole life Fisher stood like Alexander the Great, having conquered the world, only to have no more worlds to conquer.
Regarding Fisher's mental illness, his story is strikingly similar to that of John Forbes Nash (the subject of A Beautiful Mind) only without the happy ending. Many in the media have commented on his anti-Semitic and anti-American pronouncements, but I personally feel that it's unfair to view these remarks and antics as anything more than evidence of the paranoid schizophrenia which he battled throughout his life. May his soul rest in peace.
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